PROTESTERS battling to get an aluminium fence removed from the side of a historic railway viaduct in the Saddleworth village of Uppermill are demanding to see a bat survey carried out by Network Rail in advance of the work.

Trees were cleared behind a stone wall at the bottom of an embankment next to the 200-year-old viaduct in Den Lane before the company erected the 400-yard-plus long fence.

The Friends of Saddleworth action group, which has gathered a petition with nearly 470 signatures asking for the “unsightly” to be removed, are now worried that since the work was completed in May bats known to inhabit cracks in viaduct walls have not been seen.

Now, Conservative councillor Graham Sheldon, who is part of the action group, is asking Oldham Council to carry out its own bat survey in case Network Rail’s study is not forthcoming.

Cllr Sheldon is also writing to current environment secretary Michael Gove over the issue.

He told The Oldham Times: “As one of the few Conservatives on the council it was thought I would stand more of a chance of getting him to back us.”

He said he was making contact with the council’s arboriculture specialist Nick Anderson over the cutting down of the trees.

“The fact that Network Rail chopped down a whole banking of trees is a potential issue,” he continued.

Network Rail has previously said the fence was put up for safety reasons to prevent trespass on the line, although the protesters argue there are plenty of other places not far away from Den Lane where access to the Manchester-Huddersfield line is very easy.

A spokesman for the group reiterated that the Friends of Saddleworth “are not going away” in their fight to get the aluminium fence removed.

“The bat thing is a serious issue, because it’s a criminal offence to disturb them,” he said. “We would like to see Network Rail’s survey, which we’re told they carried out in advance of the work.”

The Oldham Times has contacted the company and asked if the survey would be published, but has not yet received a reply.